Neverworld Wake

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Neverworld Wake Book Poster Image
Dark, gripping, time-shifting psychological thriller.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There are sobering lessons to be learned from the characters in Neverworld Wake about the consequences that come from their drinking and involvement with drugs.

Positive Messages

Only when secrets are revealed and confronted can you move on in your life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

This is a cast of very troubled teens. Beatrice has a moral compass, but is still hard pressed to keep her bearings in the midst of all the chaos of the "Neverworld."

 

Violence

A death is described in some detail, characters buy guns and storm a police station, a man is tied up and threatened with a knife, and a family is held at gunpoint. Characters are shot and one hangs himself, but as they are in the "Neverworld," nothing they have done or experienced is permanent.

Sex

Mention is made of characters having sex on school grounds in closets and classrooms. A character who’s considered promiscuous is called Very Flexible Vida.

Language

Single uses of "goddamn," "damn," "s--t," "s--theads," and "f--k."

Consumerism

Casual consumer references are a constant throughout the novel, from movies (I Saw What You Did Last Summer, The Breakfast Club, His Girl Friday), and personalities (Delta Burke, John Wayne, James Patterson), to QVC, Red Bull, and Pride and Prejudice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters (all college-age freshmen) regularly drink and get drunk. There's a drunk driving accident. One character is a drug dealer.

What parents need to know

Families need to know that Marisha Pessl’sNeverworld Wake is psychological thriller that follows five estranged friends who reunite at an isolated seaside mansion a year after graduation from a New England prep school. Beatrice Hartley, who narrates the story, has come because she needs closure about the death of her boyfriend, Jim. Did he really kill himself or could it have been murder? The first night the friends spend together is interrupted by a knock at the door. A mysterious man who calls himself the Keeper announces that they are now stuck in time -- in a Neverworld where they will live the same day over and over. The only way out? A vote that will let one person live while the other four must die. This is a dark story with characters whose emotional troubles are only magnified as time passes. The friends regularly drink and get drunk, and one is revealed to be a drug dealer. A death is described in some detail, characters buy guns and storm a police station, a man is tied up and threatened with a knife, a family is held at gunpoint, a person hangs himself. Strong language includes single uses of "goddamn," "damn," "s--t" and "f--k." The plotline is intricate and filled with unexpected twists and turns, so readers need to pay close attention.

 

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What's the story?

In NEVERWORLD WAKE, Beatrice Hartley is in search of the truth about her boyfriend Jim’s death, and it’s a terrifying trip to that truth. A year after graduating from a tony New England prep school, she and four estranged high school friends reunite at Wincroft, an isolated mansion on the Rhode Island coast. There’s Whitley, whose family owns Wincroft; Cannon, a techie; Kip, who’s gay; and Martha, who’s on scholarship at MIT. After a night of partying and drinking, they return to Wincroft and a knock on the front door. A man who calls himself the Keeper announces, "You’re all dead." Only to amend that to "nearly dead." He then tells them that they are now in limbo, trapped in a Neverworld where they will repeat the same day over and over until they take a unanimous vote that will allow only one person to live. While they'll be able to leave Wincroft (they travel as far as Greece), they must return within a specific period of time and that time gets shorter and shorter as the days pass. Shattering secrets are revealed and some of the friends turn to violence as they desperately try to find a way out of the Neverworld and unlock the mystery behind Jim’s death.

Is it any good?

This "what just happened? I never saw that coming" psychological thriller is filled with moral dilemmas and enough twists and turns to captive almost any reader. While Neverworld Wake has a cast of emotionally flawed characters whose actions may be disturbing to some readers, these same characters and their actions can also open the door to serious conversations between parents and teens. How does drinking effect your ability to make good decisions? Is violence ever justified? What kind of secrets should never be kept? The novel has a complex plotline, so it may not be the best choice for those looking for a casual easy read.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the part drinking plays in Neverworld Wake. Do you think the characters would have made different choices if they hadn’t been drinking? How do you think the story would have unfolded if drinking had not been involved?

  • Is there a day in your life you would like to live over again? What would you do differently?

  • A number of violent acts are committed by the friends. Do you think they acted out of desperation? Is desperation ever any excuse for violence?

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